by Lindsay Mattick [j Mattick]
This is a charming little novel that fictionalizes the real-life events that inspired the literary legend that is Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne. Most readers are probably not aware that the honey-loving bear of Milne’s story was inspired by an actual Canadian bear, who had quite a few adventures of his own!
Winnie was an orphaned female black bear cub who was purchased by Canadian cavalry veterinarian Harry Colebourn at a railway station as he was being sent for troop training in Eastern Canada in preparation for being sent to Europe to fight in World War I (i.e. “The Great War”). Colebourn named her Winnipeg, in honor of his hometown, but that was quickly shortened to Winnie. Winnie was a mascot for Colebourns unit of front-line veterinary doctors, and they couldn’t bear to leave her behind when they took the ocean voyage to Europe. After many exciting adventures with Colebourn and his fellow soldiers, ultimately Winnie was turned over to the London Zoo when Harry and his comrades headed into combat. Colebourn planned to reclaim her after the war…but no-one had any idea how long this World War would ultimately go on.
During those war years, Winnie became a huge attraction at the London Zoo, where she was beloved by both the zoo visitors and staff. She had a playful personality, but could also sense anxiety and fear in other animals and her mere presence could often calm creatures of many species. It was while Winnie was at the zoo that author Milne brought his son, Christopher Robin Milne to the zoo, and the boy fell in love with the bear…renaming his own stuffed bear “Winnie-the-Pooh” (a combination of Winnie the real-life bear, and a nick-name in the Milne household). It was this that inspired Milne to write his beloved childrens’ books.
I enjoyed this short novel very much, and feel like I know a lot more about the true history of Winnie now, although the author (a descendant of Colebourn) takes some creative liberties in sections of the novel — especially in attributing human-like personalities and speech (although only among the animals themselves) to most of the various animals in the story. But, but a story that aims to entertaining a youthful audience, this is fully understandable. A fun, enlightening read!
[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick, Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired WInnie the Pooh, by Sally Walker or Goodbye Christopher Robin, in both book and DVD formats.]
[ publisher’s official Winnie’s Great War web page ] | [ official Lindsay Mattick web site ]
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library
Bennett Martin Public Library
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